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Tough Road for Zimbabwe's Transition to Democracy

FILE: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe speaks during the opening ceremony of the Organization of African Unity summit in Harare,Zimbabwe, on Monday, June 2,1997.

Almost 35 years after Zimbabwe gained independence from British colonial rule, some Zimbabweans say they are not happy that the country continues to slide backwards in terms of its socio-economic and political environment.

At the same time, opposition parties say there is need to address most of the country’s challenges though they remain fragmented, a situation which they say is entrenching Zanu PF rule.

One of the disgruntled Zimbabweans is Kudakwashe Matibiri of Harare’s Highfield high-density suburb, who believes that President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party has failed to create a democratic state since 1980.

Another Harare resident Sharon Chakacha of Hatcliffe says to make matters worse, the majority of Zimbabweans are not gainfully employed due to failed political and economic policies such as the country’s indigenization law, which compels foreign-owned firms to transfer a 50 percent stake to locals.

Chakacha adds that the recent alleged abduction of former journalist and pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara of Occupy Africa Unity Square by suspected state security agents is one such incident that puts Zimbabwe on the international radar for the wrong reasons.

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The organization has been calling for the resignation of President Mugabe, claiming that he has failed to properly run the country since independence.

Matibiri says Zimbabwe needs to create a democratic environment through abiding to the rule of law, the conduction of free and fair elections and strengthening other key pillars of democracy like aligning all laws with the new constitution.


Most elections in Zimbabwe have over the years been described by some observers and opposition parties as a gigantic fraud. The voters’ roll compiled by the Registrar-General’s Office has been in the center of disputes with government failing to unveil it to opposition parties ahead of all crucial elections.

Some Zimbabweans believe that the opposition has always given Zanu PF the upper hand in national polls as the parties normally mushroom in large numbers towards elections before disappearing into thin air.

Chitungwiza resident Edgar Gweshe says these parties usually split votes in favor of President Mugabe’s party. Gweshe adds that in-house squabbles in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change or M-D-C have helped in maintaining the status quo in the country.

On the other hand, M-D-C founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai argues that Zimbabwe needs to hold free and fair elections in order to revamp the country’s economy that took a tailspin when the country embarked on what he describes as chaotic land reforms in 2000.

Tsvangirai says pro-democracy forces should now work together to address the challenges being faced by many Zimbabweans.

His views are echoed by M-D-C Renewal Team spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, who says what is lacking is a grand coalition that will create national awareness on sticky political issues before taking on Zanu PF in crucial elections.


A church led by Bishop Sebastian Bakare is in the process of convening such a conference, which it has dubbed the National Convergence Platform.

But Mukaratirwa says what is needed is a power broker.

For its part, Zanu PF says it is doing all it can to ensure that the situation returns to normal. The party’s national spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo, says the Zimbabwe’s moribund economy would turn around if the five-year local economic blueprint, the 27 billion dollar Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Economic Transformation or Zimasset, is fully implemented.

He says Zimbabweans should thank his party because they are now proud owners of their land, a critical issue that led to the liberation struggle of the 1960s and 1970s.